Helena Drdlová: My experience as an EK trainee


As my traineeship slowly comes to an end, I would like to take a moment to look back at the lessons I’ve learned in EK as an international student in Finland.

I’m writing these words from SuomiAreena in Pori on the Baltic coast, where politicians, business leaders, activists, artists, and many others gather in July to discuss the present and future of Finland. There is no wonder EK is among the participants:

as I learned during my traineeship, standing at the intersection of the business world and the world of politics means facing big global challenges, but always keeping an eye on how they impact everyday reality.

I came to Finland in 2021 to pursue a master’s degree, and although I have heard that navigating a Finnish working life without speaking the language is a challenge, my own experience in EK has been quite to the contrary: everyone is fluent and happy to chat, and my team switched to English not only for the work meetings and internal communication, but also during morning discussions in the kitchen over a cup of coffee, so I always felt included and in the picture.

I worked in the Entrepreneurship, EU and International Trade team, which, as its name suggests, mainly deals with international and EU affairs. In these turbulent times, there was no shortage of interesting meetings, articles, and memos about things that move our world, like value chain resilience, green transition, or challenges to global free trade. As a student of political economy, I appreciated seeing these complex topics come to life in daily tasks and grasping them from yet another, perhaps more practical angle. I equally liked the opportunity to peek into the business world of a country that enjoys an international reputation of a smart, sustainable, and savvy innovator.

Not everything is rosy from the inside, but the Finnish values of openness, responsibility, and transparency can be clearly felt in the EK’s working culture, and they certainly count for something.

As my traineeship took place in the midst of preparations for the Czech presidency of the Council of the EU, one of my main tasks was to follow up, summarize, and keep EK up to date on the developments down in Prague, the capital of my home country. In addition to that, I delved deep into the study and comparison of some aspects of the Czech and Finnish economy.

Getting the chance to look at my own country through the lenses of an outsider, learn and write about the Czech economy with a Finnish perspective in mind was one of the most interesting tasks of my traineeship.

My stay in EK was an experience of a lifetime that pushed me forward both professionally and personally. And as the ranks of English speakers at Eteläranta 10 slowly, but surely grow, I can heartily recommend to my fellow international students to try and apply when you get the chance. It is a challenge, but it’s also a great opportunity to grow and learn.